Suns 108, Timberwolves 101: Couldn’t care less vs. Could care less
One of the things that drives me crazy is when people say, “I could care less” when they really mean to say, “I couldn’t care less.” It typically takes all of my willpower not to correct it, just because I’m that cool and I want people to stop saying things like “I could care less” and the word “conversate.” I’m not terribly into grammar in conversation form. If I ask someone how they’re doing and they say “good” then I’ll match them with a “good” instead of an “I’m well.”
But the “could care less” thing I can barely handle. I wanted to know how we got to this point in our society’s conversational devolution, so I did a little research. Turns out “couldn’t care less” is a British saying, first recognized in print form in 1901. But somehow it didn’t make its way over to the U.S. until the late 1940’s. Prior to that moment, Americans could care a lot less about a lot of things.
It’s believed in the 1960’s that “couldn’t care less” started getting converted into “could care less.” It appeared that as experimentation with drugs and free will in our society started taking over from the hardened days of short-sleeved dress shirts with ties into clothes made of hemp, we started getting lazier with our speech. Some people theorize that “could care less” came about because of a rise in sarcasm, and that dropping the negative was actually designed to add emphasis.
The change can be related to almost a self-deprecating manner of talking. It gets related to a Yiddish quality of “I should be so lucky” in which the person actually doesn’t have said luck or “tell me about it” in which the person has no intention of actually wanting the other party in the conversation to tell them about it.
Others think it was just people getting a phrase wrong through general laziness and once it took off then there was no stopping it. In reality, “could care less” simply doesn’t add emphasis to anything in the way it’s intended. It means something is bothering you to a degree you’re not intending to convey. What you really want to say is that something is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things that it’s impossible to care less about it. In fact, you can’t care at all. That’s why the distinction between “couldn’t care less” and “could care less” is so important because the delivery of speech is the proper way to display our emotions, which is a release on so many psychological levels for us.
I was thinking about this a lot during the Minnesota Timberwolves’ matinee loss to the Phoenix Suns. Mostly because it was a far more entertaining mental exercise to keep repeating “careless” in my mind with as many emphases as possible than to watch the lazily carefree nature of the Wolves taking care of the ball. Finding ways to deconstruct the word “careless” eventually led me to thinking about the pet peeve of “couldn’t care less” vs. “could care less” and it was refreshingly more annoying than what was happening in the game.
The vitriol is at peak levels at the moment, or so it seems. Bill addressed it in his recap of the previous game. We’re far past the anger for David Kahn, or maybe I’m just privy to a larger cross-section now than in those days. Or maybe the years have just piled up on each other like a column of brain-hungry zombies climbing each other to clear a wall and latching onto a low-flying helicopter to bring it down into the terror. Maybe the years should get blurred together — rebuilding efforts all being classified as the same because the two constants in these equations are the building they reside in and the owner who resides over them.
Personally, this rebuild looks much different to me than the other rebuilds did, in a way that is far more encouraging looking at the larger picture than discouraging looking at the short-term and the ghosts of rebuilds’ past. I have my theories on why this vitriol exists, but that’s probably something to flesh out at another time.
The Wolves were never going to win this game against the Suns the way they came out. I don’t know if the carelessness on the floor was a result of great defense by Phoenix or the early start time throwing off the body clocks of everybody involved or just one of those days in which nothing clicks. Heading into this game, the Wolves had just three games in which they turned the ball over 18 times or more. Say what you want about Sam Mitchell (actually, let’s hold off on that) but his teams don’t typically turn the ball over.
Minnesota had 18 turnovers in the second and third quarters combined, which led to 35 points. That was the moment in which they lost this game. The help defense in this game was horrendous. The players looked confused on when to help, where to help from, and how to traverse the pick-and-roll coverage. Andrew Wiggins played the worst defensive game I can remember from him. Karl-Anthony Towns seemed lost on which side of the screen he should be covering when the Suns ran a high pick-and-roll. And on top of all that, the Wolves couldn’t hold onto the ball.
When the game got close, many people wanted the starters back in because the victory seemed to be within range. I’d argue their malaise had decided the game in the first place. The bench that brought them back was left in and while the Suns’ unit switched from high risk, high reward to a much steadier option, the Wolves stuck with the date that brought them back to that dance.
This is where I think Wolves fans or the vitriolic few on social media could and should probably care less. I think every game is a lesson for all parties involved — the players, the organization, the coaches, and the people watching. You can take something out of every game and apply it toward our knowledge of what this team is and where it’s going and how it intends to get there. If the matinee game was indeed winnable in the final couple of minutes (which I don’t believe it was) and Mitchell sacrificed the result as a teaching moment, I’m fine with that.
I’m not fine with how they got to that moment. I don’t know how you stop your team from playing poor defense and giving the ball to the other team in the middle of the game without subbing players out. But it felt like Mitchell could or should have done something (I beg you not to focus on this part of the recap and really pay attention to the entire message whether you agree with it or not) to alter the flow of the game. Maybe that’s where the limited offensive system comes into play, or again maybe it was just one of those bad games that every team seems to go through at least a few times a year.
Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio and Karl-Anthony Towns didn’t play in the fourth, and I’m actually fine with this, even when the game got close. If you don’t care to have the focus to execute in the first 36 minutes, why do you get to play in the fourth? Why do you get that automatic sub-in? Why shouldn’t you always have to prove you belong on the floor through execution?
That’s the long-term approach I want the Wolves and any team in development to take. It’s not that I couldn’t care less about the result of the game. It’s that I think we should care less about the result of the individual moments and look at the build-up of those individual lessons and where it could take the direction of this team. We’ll see the young guys learn from this mistake of a game. We’ll hopefully see more focus in the next contest. And while I know a few are shaking their heads and assuming I’m “letting Sam off the hook” for mistakes in the game and every game, I’m much more of a big picture person than someone desperate for victories now after more than a decade of disappointment.